Despite the skepticism about companies going “carbon neutral” — particularly if firms rely on renewable energy credits, which can be controversial and hard to verify — companies and organizations that are purchasing green power should be lauded. The system isn’t perfect but hey, they’re making a real effort. And the IT industry, which has faced a lot of finger-pointing, is actually forging ahead faster than many others, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Top 50 Green Power Purchasers.
The list is led by Intel (s INTC), which buys 1.3 billion kWh per year, or 46 percent of its total electricity use. Dell (s DELL) follows closely in the fourth spot in terms of annual green power usage — with 553.71 million kWh per year — but surprisingly buys more green power than its total electricity use, with 158 percent green power compared to total electricity use. Five other IT and telecom companies made the cut, including Cisco (s CSCO), Sprint (s S), Sony (s SNE), Motorola (s MOT) and AMD (s AMD).
Often a green power purchase doesn’t necessarily mean installing a solar panel behind the company’s HQ. The EPA lists a green power purchase as either a Renewable Energy Certificate, on-site clean power generation, or a utility green power product. As this Wall Street Journal article points out for Dell’s carbon neutral claims, RECs can be hard to verify, so it can be disturbing when a company like Dell uses RECs to neutralize a good portion of its carbon footprint. We talked to Tod Arbogast, Dell’s director of sustainable business, at the recent Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, and he said because there just isn’t enough clean power generation in the U.S. yet, RECs are a necessary part of going carbon neutral.